Marketers Share The Secrets Of Their Success

Recognise the value of successful brand management, never compromise on research, share your marketing thinking, recruit extraordinary teams and hold the wheel. Insights from some of the UK's most senior marketers.

Originally Published: 24 April 2024

Over the last 4 months I have been conducting research into where marketing directors and marketing managers are finding the most friction within their business when it comes to delivering exceptional marketing.

I’ll be publishing my findings in a white paper later this autumn, but ahead of my full report here are 5 insights that have begun to emerge from my conversations with some of the UK’s most senior marketing folk.

  1. Brand management:

The senior B2C marketers that participated all understood the value of effective brand management and the balance needed between sophisticated mass marketing and targeted sales activation for optimal results. The B2C marketers that I spoke to all understood that “if you stop the mass marketing, you’ll be ok for a few months, then it will bite”. They recognised that the long (mass marketing/brand awareness) fuels the short (sales marketing) – and vice versa.

Senior marketers also revealed that times of economic uncertainty also presented them with opportunities to secure excess share of voice (ESOV) in their sector – which some had used to their advantage.

Within B2B, many senior marketers surveyed knew they should be doing more brand marketing, but the emphasis from their respective C-suites was on targeted sales activation. Many suggested that there was a lack of understanding of the power of successful brand management at board-level. B2B marketers also reported that marketing tactics were seen mostly perceived of as a cost, rather than an investment.

Observation: Based on my survey B2B businesses must give more consideration to brand management. There’s a real opportunity for B2B businesses (step forward life sciences, recruitment, SAAS et al) to increase brand strength and even gain ESOV in their sector – take a leaf from the B2C ‘successful marketers’ book.

  1. Research: 

The senior marketers I spoke with fell into 3 camps: the first was where their organisation sees the unassailable logic of diagnosis and research as part of the marketing function and makes funds available to pursue this. The second: where they recognise the need for research – but the research is only undertaken every few years, or must be gleaned from another departments research project. Third: organisations that either do not recognise the importance of research or are unable/unwilling to spend the money needed to do the research.

Conversations with successful senior marketers showed time and again that they use research and insight to power their decision-making during the planning period, with some running marketing mix modelling to confirm that they’ve made the best marketing decisions over the last 12 months. In one case a telecoms marketing director had her head of customer insight as her wing-person in all key decision-making. In another case where no budget was made available for research, the marketer carved a budget for a brand awareness survey out of their marketing spend each year and used those results as the bedrock for planning.

Observation: Successful marketers never compromise on market knowledge and research. Industry knowledge is not the same as customer and competitor knowledge. Research on your customers and your competition to validate hypothesis – from brand association to sales funnels, alongside tracking all available results – should be a non-negotiable and essential part of your marketing process. With new AI apps providing fast, cost-effective research data, there should be no excuses when it comes to undertaking the requisite research to power the best decision making in your marketing plans.

  1. Planning process: 

Those surveyed fell into 2 categories: on the one side successful senior marketers explained that they ensure that their teams are collaborating on the same clearly defined strategic marketing goals – and that each team member understands their role within the chosen strategic goal – and how crucial this is in times of hybrid/WFH working.

On the other side – where internal communication between leadership and different marketing teams is poor – some marketers spoke of confusion, teams becoming increasingly frustrated and often operating in silos. In one extreme example assembly of graphic assets needed for an in store product launch were being assembled at the same time by two independent teams – a waste of resource. Better, clear, centralised communications could have helped avoid this.

The most successful marketers shared the thinking behind their marketing plans with the sales team and their Financial Director too. Simple elegant expression of research findings and their methodology – e.g. how your segmentation, targeting, positioning and objectives are informing your tactical choices – enabled an easier ‘sell-in’ to the C-suite or board. 

Observation: Failure to communicate simple marketing strategy so that everyone understands your thinking (and the role they may have to play), to your team, to sales and to the FD can derail the best marketing plans. A number of senior marketers revealed that they had leapfrogged one or other of these critical marketing planning disciplines in the past – and then lived to regret it.

  1. Organisational behaviour:

A number of successful senior marketers surveyed spent a considerable amount of their available time hunting for and then recruiting the best available talent to take their marketing to the next level. 

The best marketing leaders openly acknowledge that they are only as good as their team. They delegate responsibility to their capable marketing managers, and prioritise time spent building out their marketing team’s skill set.

In one case, the CMO identified areas for improvement, secured the available budget and then recruited the most talented marketers in the industry for each discipline: email marketing, social media, app design. They head-hunted, hired, delegated responsibility and then celebrated their hires’ successes. Senior marketers that prioritise this, and then also their relationships with their chosen hires reported considerably improved results.

In contrast some senior marketers revealed frustrations at not being able to recruit the calibre of staff that they believed would make a difference. Marketers spoke of organisations where junior teams lacked the experience or marketing training to deliver the best work. Other Marketers reported that there is still a need for the role of marketing to be properly defined to the board and C-suite. In some cases, marketing was seen as a supporting role to sales – “creating the assets they need to do the job”. 

Notably one CMO found that sending his entire marketing team on the Marketing Week mMBA course ensured that the whole team had a shared framework for their marketing operations and – in his words – “we now speak the same language”.

Observation: Equip your marketing teams with the requisite talent to achieve your goals. Do your best to ensure your board and c-suite understand the power of optimised marketing. “Marketing asset creation” is 1/10 of the role of the marketer. The 3 C’s (company, competition, customer) of corporate strategy are the same 3 C’s of marketing strategy. Senior marketers are increasingly being given responsibility for innovation and new products (see Octopus Energy, LEGO). Marketing is the engine that drives business.

  1. Hold the wheel:

Having taken the time to work through your research and your planning, and having selected your most appropriate tactics, successful senior marketers were able to ‘hold the wheel’ – repeating campaigns for up to several years in a row. 

One senior marketer – whose campaign saw a 180% uplift in sales – ran the campaign again the following year to great effect. They were able to defend their strategy against forces from within their business and the perennial problem of marketing teams’ inherent desire to ‘make new stuff’.

Less fortunate senior marketers revealed that the best of intentions – including super-focused and clear objectives were often derailed by new demands ‘from above’ – new initiatives and new products – sometime only days after “planning” had been approved.

Observation: Defend your carefully considered marketing plans from internal pressure to pivot and change. Successful senior marketers ‘hold the wheel’ and steer their ship to success over months and years – not weeks.

So there’s a snap-shot of my findings from my research – a longer and more detailed report with statistics to support will be published later this year. Email me: if you’d like a copy ahead of publication.

Tim Healey is founder and curator of Little Grey Cells. His marketing and brand management agency,  Shoot 4 the Moon, helps marketing teams be the best they can be. Is it time that you optimised your marketing efficiency and effectiveness? Email Tim.

More from Little Grey Cells